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A Look at the New BlackBerry 7.1 OS

By Mary Beth Hamilton | Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Earlier this month BlackBerry introduced its new BlackBerry 7.1 OS that adds new features including mobile hotspot capabilities, BlackBerry Tag and Wi-Fi calling. This week I updated my device and thought I’d share my experiences with the new features.

Mobile Hotspot
The ability to turn my BlackBerry into a mobile hotspot got my attention after some recent trips to NYC where I enjoyed the snail-pace of Acela’s free Wi-Fi. The Mobile Hotspot feature is found under ‘managed connections’ and allows you to connect up to five Wi-Fi devices at once.

BlackBerry warns that additional charges might apply for Mobile Hotspot use and tha,t during phone calls, Internet traffic to and from connected devices will be suspended until the call ends.

For reference, it was $20/month to add the Mobile Hotspot data service to my Verizon BlackBerry. The package includes 2GB of data, which the Verizon rep said even heavy users typically never reach.

While Wi-Fi hot spots are pervasive, the Mobile Hotspot capability may come in handy for frequent travelers.

BlackBerry Tag
Full-disclosure, I haven’t tried this new feature yet but can see the value, especially when I don’t have a business card handy or want to quickly share a photo or document.

With BlackBerry Tag, users can tap their NFC (Near Field Communications) BlackBerry (i.e. Bold 9900/ 9930 and Curve 9350/9360/9370) against another NFC enabled BlackBerry and easily share information. The uses BlackBerry mentions in their press release include “invite a friend to BBM, exchange contact information, documents, URLs, photos and other multimedia content.”

Looking ahead, BlackBerry may use this NFC capability to create apps that turn the device into a virtual wallet, but, for now, we can more easily share information and invite a friend to BBM.

Wi-Fi Calling
Available for a more limited audience, BlackBerry 7.1 OS also supports carrier implemented Wi-Fi calling services (aka UMA or GAN where available), allowing users to make Wi-Fi calls from their BlackBerry smartphone that don’t eat into their airtime minutes. Not all carriers offer such a service – Verizon is one that does not.

FM Radio (Bold users need not apply)
Only for BlackBerry Curve 9360 or 9380 users, the device can now serve as an FM radio so users can enjoy local FM radio stations while on the go.

All-in-all BlackBerry 7.1 OS has some nice add-ons, but in reality most only have applicability to a subset of BlackBerry users.


Photo credits: BlackBerry

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